Go Home

Brownsville: Toronto or Not? (Part Two of Two)

by A. Strom 1996

It appears that since I wrote my last article about what has been occurring in Brownsville, Florida, and the true origins of that movement, there has been quite an attempt made to "clean up" this revival even further.

Several recent reports say that people exhibiting "weird" manifestations, etc, are now routinely removed from the main meetings. I know that my article has been read by some of the leadership of that movement, and I am very glad if, in some small way, the points raised about the 'Toronto'-type manifestations that are occurring there have helped cause a few questions to be asked. However, I still stand by my previous comments, and wish to note that merely removing those who are being affected by these 'Toronto'-type phenomena does not in any way solve the real problem, but rather just hides it from public view.

No-one has disputed the fact which I raised in my previous article that the main revival leader at Brownsville (Steve Hill, who was previously renowned as a successful repentance evangelist) came there having just done serious "carpet-time" at a large 'Toronto' church in London. And it is obvious from the results that ensued in Brownsville that this 'Toronto' spirit was now very much in evidence there also having been "transferred in" by Mr Hill. This has happened with this 'Toronto' spirit all over the world. It is very easily transferred in this way.

In a recent interview published in the 'SCC Revival News' (1-1-97), Steve Hill himself recalled how he had been prayed for by Sandy Millar (a well-known 'blessing' leader) at Holy Trinity Brompton church in London, even though he had previously read that in that church, "They were laughing, they were falling..." He recalled: "I walked into the stately Anglican church in down town London right by Harrod's, the richest area of town, and stepped over about 500 bodies, people shaking all over the place.. I went up to him, he laid his hands on my head and it was over. I mean, I went down under the power of the Holy Spirit." And this was the exact 'anointing' that Mr Hill transferred into Brownsville. (He is quite open about it).

When asked, 'What do you make of the physical manifestations?' in this same interview about Brownsville, he replied: "The Lord is welcome in this place to do anything he wants. But there is a balance here. They receive the gospel, they receive the cross, the blood. When the manifestations come, I welcome the manifestations, but I don't major on the minors." (SCC Revival News #115).

Notice that he plainly states that he "welcomes" these Toronto-like manifestations, though he doesn't major on them. (Actually, the Toronto Airport fellowship itself claims exactly the same thing!) But doesn't the mere fact that such manifestations are occurring in such a widespread way at Brownsville support my main contention that at heart, this movement is little more than 'Toronto' under a different guise?

To my knowledge, no-one has denied the comments I made in my previous article about the severe 'Cerebral Palsy'-type manifestations that began occurring in Brownsville, or the fact that the MAIN PASTOR HIMSELF, John Kilpatrick, wrote a brief article early on, defending the unusual manifestations that were occurring, and listing some of them as:

  1. Falling on the floor (for the purpose of "deep inner healing, preparation for ministry, physical healing, receiving of visions, feeling the love of God");

  2. Laughter;

  3. Shaking ("head, hands, feet, and body"); and

  4. Deep bowing.

As I wrote in my previous article, can anyone tell me in what significant way such manifestations differ from 'Toronto'?

I have no doubt at all that there are cases of genuine repentance occurring at Brownsville. After all, Steve Hill was already a successful repentance evangelist well before he went near the Toronto movement. And God never removes such giftings. But as I wrote in my last article, is it not possible for even a man of God to be deceived, and to begin to operate under a counterfeit anointing in some area of their ministry? (History clearly shows that it is, and that such men almost always continue under their God-given anointing as well as under the new foreign spirit).

I have already gone into the origins of the Toronto spirit and the manifestations that it causes, in previous articles. Suffice it to say, that I believe that the Scriptural prophecies about 'seducing spirits', lying signs and wonders and "great deception" arising from within the church (that would 'deceive if possible the very elect') are speaking of the very days that we are now living in. And it is this "mixture" of a genuine repentance preacher who is now also operating under what I believe to be an alien spirit, that alarms me most about the Brownsville movement. I believe that this spirit is now being transmitted far and wide, into many 'conservative' churches, by means of Brownsville.

In fact, it seems clear to me from reports that I have received from other churches where 'Brownsville' has been introduced, that it is very largely NOT the "repentance" side of things that is TRULY being transferred, but far more the "fall down and shake and jerk and do 'carpet time'" side of things. The preachers who visit Brownsville and take it back to their churches are often nothing like 'repentance' preacher Steve Hill. And so, what ends up happening in their churches is often far closer to a "fall down and feel good" move than anything else (though the 'repentance and holiness' terminology is still used all the while, of course!) I am convinced that it is essentially 'Toronto' that is being transferred to other churches from Brownsville, rather than any true spirit of conviction. But this is a far more "subtle" version of Toronto one that the conservative Southern churches will buy ( who would NEVER have bought the original). Please remember that we are living in days in which deceptions will arise that will deceive the 'VERY ELECT' if that were possible. I also believe that God is DELIBERATELY "giving over" the Laodicean church to deception at this time. Judgement is truly beginning at the "house of God".

To back up what I have been saying, here are some extracts from an email I received from one American churchgoer after 'Brownsville' had flooded into his church:

"I attend an Assemblies of God church here in ----, Wisconsin, where after our pastor visited Brownsville at the end of May, many of the same things have been happening here. For some, this has been disturbing, while others like myself are somewhat unsure, and yet others have gone headlong into "the river" (as they like to refer to it here). During the first few weeks of June, services did not proceed in any normal fashion, usually with people spontaneously going to the altar during worship. The initial lack of preaching, which has resumed but somewhat in a fashion emulating Brownsville (we have an evangelist "on staff" now), bothered me emmensely. I believe many sincerely seek more of the Lord, but the "falling bodies" aspect soon took over... [He goes on to say that "holiness, repentance, and evangelism" have certainly been talked about a fair bit, but that...]

I am 37 years old, and have been in pentecostal circles since my birth, so I am familiar with what one might refer to as the "typcial" phenomena. We do see "jerking" here but mostly young people, although also in a few young adults - something I have not seen before in my experience.

"Several things continue to bother me:

1) When people first began to fall over while being prayed for by a pastor, I noticed that the pastors had already arranged for ushers to be there to "catch" them. I have seen people fall over under the influence of the Holy Spirit before, but I've never known the Lord to drop someone to the floor in a manner that would cause them bodily injury... In our church, I overheard one women telling one of the pastors that she "was afraid to be prayed for again," because the last time, they didn't catch her and she hurt her shoulder. [Such injuries are not uncommon in 'Toronto', but in true Revivals God makes sure people are unhurt when they fall. Please think about this, it's important].

2) I have sincerely tried to guard myself by sincerely asking whether it is really more of the Lord I want, or just His bless ing. I see many immature christians, who I sense are after something to make them "feel good" rather than to purify them selves as holy vessels for the work of our Lord. I have however been tempted to desire the manifestations, as if that would indicate spiritual "status", or even just to feel as if I was missing out on something. Our middle daughter sometimes came away from a service feeling almost depressed because she didn't "feel" or "experience" what others were. She is very tender hearted toward the Lord however, but this attitude gives me a very strange feeling. Last week, without being prayed for, she began "jerking" although not violently in any way. After reading your comments, I feel concerned that I might be exposing my children to something dangerous..." R.L, Wisconsin, USA.

[Please remember that this is the 'Brownsville' movement that has hit his church but notice the tremendous similarities to Toronto].

The following are some extracts from another email I received from the United States on the same subject:

"Let me first tell you that I come from a Charismatic background and am not unfamiliar about movements of God. I however am also an engineer, and as such analyze most everything. Let me start with a little self disclosure. An evangelist from Pensacola (not Brownsville) came to our church for a "Signs and Wonders" conference. It was at this meeting that I went forward for prayer. After the prayer, the evangelist said " be drunk in the Spirit". Suddenly, I began to laugh uncontrollably. I doubled over, fell to the ground and laughed for literally fifteen to twenty minutes. Every time I tried to stop, it started over. I laughed so hard and long that at the end I had muscle spasms and cramps. I didn't think much of this until reading your articles about Toronto. Then I started to think anew about this experience. I started to analyze: What did I get out of this experience? Why would God have me laugh so long as to cause physical pain? Was I, a born again, Bible thumping fanatic for God deceived? Hard questions, but ones that demanded answers...

A close friend of my pastor who lives in Dothan Alabama went to [Brownsville] Pensacola. There he saw many manifestations. He was sitting near the front of the church and he started to hear a dog bark. His initial reaction was, " how dare someone bring their pet into the house of God". He then turned around and saw that it was a woman doing the barking. He was so upset that he left not to return. After this experience, my pastor then went down. Because he was a pastor, both he and his wife were ushered toward the front. Here he could see a group of people in what he per ceived was a section dedicated to the infirmed. They were all rocking and shaking and moving about quite violently. They con tinued this until it was time to greet one another. At this point, they all stopped their movements and proceeded about normally. This surprised him. He said that the message given was good, but he did notice that the actual pastor of the church rocked back and forth in his seat throughout the entire service. This seemed quite strange.

After the service it was time for personal ministry and a salvation call. When the people started coming forth for salvation, a woman began to shriek quite loudly. My pastor said that it was quite evident that this was demonic. However, not one usher when over to quite her or to escort her out. My pastor excused this because of the large crowd and the difficulty of getting to the place that the woman was standing. A woman came over to his wife and started to pray for her. She was then "driven" to her knees. Later, she said that she never had experienced anything like it. At this point my pastor and wife started to leave. The actual pastor of the place was going around "slaying" people. He rushed up to my pastor's wife, and in her words "pushed me over". After this experience, they were walking to the car and my pastor's wife was overcome with laughter. She laughed through the parking lot and sat in the car for about ten minutes trying to compose herself.

You don't know me, but I am a sold out radical for my Lord Jesus. I study the Bible every day, I pray continuously, and the Lord is very active in my life. If with a lack of understanding, a "manifestation" as powerful as the one I experienced could occur to me, everyone should be aware. When you go forward for prayer, seeking the Lord, you must be careful about who is praying for you! If you ask for bread the heavenly Father will give it to you, but if you ask one whom is only operating under a deception, you may get a stone."

B. M. (USA).

Here are some very significant extracts from yet another email which I received recently from America:

In the summer of 1996, Charisma magazine published an extensive article on the "revival" taking place at the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. Great care was given to describe this "revival" as being quite different from the Toronto Blessing. Throughout the article, it was claimed that this was in fact an authentic revival with repentance and salvations occurring nightly.. in the tradition of the great revivals of the past.

I felt an urge by the Holy Spirit to make a detour on my family vacation and visit the Brownsville Assembly of God. So with great anticipation and expectation I arrived in Pensacola late on a Friday evening in August... I was still unsuspecting as to what waited for me at the Brownsville Assembly of God. I got to the meeting early, excited at the prospect of perhaps seeing a true revival, something I know every believer of Jesus Christ longs to see in the church. It is so desperately needed. As I talked with those waiting, everyone encouraged us that our long trip would not be in vain, that we would be greatly blessed. I purchased some booklets in the lobby excited to learn more about what God was doing.

Finally, the meeting began with worship. My excitement and enthusiasm quickly vanished. Something seemed very wrong to me. I thought maybe I was expecting too much. The worship was very typical of the modern contemporary worship that I had been accust omed to, most of the songs familiar, but something didn't seem right in the Spirit.. Then the manifestations began. Young girls walking around gesturing as though they were mentally ill. One of the worship leaders, a female, collapsed on the floor during theh worship where she remained for a long time. I kept telling myself.. keep an open mind. I kept asking God.. is this you.. if this is you, give me a peace in my spirit. It never came. As the speakers began to share, I became increasing disturbed. They spoke of the mystical appearance of the river on that fateful Sunday in June of 1995 and how its power swept into the building and changed every thing. They went on and on about manifestations, particularly about bizarre behaviors in which they believed they were birthing things through intercession. The pastor's wife spoke and the entire time she was on the platform she jerked uncontrollably as she told stories of phenomenon. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I looked at my family and said let's get out of here. They were quick to agree. I left the materials that I had purchased on the church parking lot. I didn't even want to take them in my car.

At first, I was devastated. I was so disappointed... The deceptive power of the enemy is awesome and adaptive. The folks promoting Pensacola are cleverly answering the objections that have been made to the Toronto Blessing. They are now pack aging this revival as authentic, patterned after the revivals of John Wesley's day. This is deception and I believe with all my heart that the spirit operating at Pensacola is a religious spirit, a counterfeit spirit...


To summarize, I wish to declare again that I absolutely stand by the substance of everything I wrote in my previous article on Brownsville. I believe that the warnings I have given on this subject have not been overstated, but rather have provided a reasonable and timely reminder that the possibility for deception exists EVERYWHERE, not just in the cults or the New Age movement. Just how alert are we Christians in these last days the days in which deception will abound? I do believe in Revival (in fact I have a whole web-site devoted to the subject), but I cannot go along with the deadly form of mixture which I believe lies at the heart of the Brownsville movement. And I am still convinced that its leaders are going to quite some lengths to distance their movement from 'Toronto', when in fact these two are very closely related indeed.

'Brownsville, Pensacola: "Toronto" or not?' copyright (c) Andrew Strom, 1996